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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 17: April 23, 2007

  1. Did State Gun Laws Make the Virginia Tech Victims More Vulnerable?
  2. Earth Day and Environmental Bureaucracy
  3. Like Russia, Latin America Is Moving Toward Authoritarianism
  4. Chertoff Hypes One Risk, but Ignores Another
  5. Garvey Essay Contest: May 1st Deadline Approaches

1) Did State Gun Laws Make the Virginia Tech Victims More Vulnerable?

In June 2002, 43-year-old Peter Odighizuwa, a disgruntled student from Nigeria, shot three faculty members at Virginia’s Appalachian Law School but was quickly disarmed by two students who had retrieved handguns from their cars. This raises a painful but necessary question: could students or teachers, had they been armed, have thwarted Seung-Hui Cho’s maniacal killing spree at Virginia Tech?

It’s impossible to know with certainty what would have happened had responsible members of the Virginia Tech community had this option, but armed self-defense might have reduced the carnage—especially given the time lapse between the murders of Cho’s first two victims and the thirty that followed.

Sadly, we can say that Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker imparted a false sense of security earlier this year when—after a bill that would have allowed students and employees to carry handguns on Virginia college campuses was defeated in the state legislature—he said: “I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on campus.”

“Obviously, when people are intent on massacring defenseless students, there is no panacea,” writes Pierre Lemieux, an Independent Institute Research Fellow. “Yet, there must be a reason why such killings haven’t occurred at places like the University of Utah, where people licensed to carry guns can bring them on campus, including university buildings…. So long as we tolerate a nanny-state culture of dependency, in which people are treated as children, disarmed and prohibited from protecting themselves, senseless mass killings will continue, and perhaps increase.”

See “Virginia Tech,” by Pierre Lemieux (4/23/07) Spanish Translation

“Gun Control: Separating Fact from Myth,” featuring Gary Kleck and David Kopel (11/15/00) Transcript and Audio

“Guns and Violent Crime,” featuring Joyce Lee Malcolm and Donald B. Kates (9/21/99) Transcript and Audio

That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right, by Stephen Halbrook

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2) Earth Day and Environmental Bureaucracy

Commentary surrounding Earth Day is often characterized either by wide-eyed optimism about the potential of various government programs to make the word greener or by an environmental fatalism that says we are all doomed. But pundits of both types tend to have this in common: they overlook the serious problems caused by many of our environmental policies, as panelists explained at last June’s “Bureaucracy vs. the Environment” Independent Policy Forum.

First, Independent Institute Academic Affairs Director Carl Close, co-editor of Re-Thinking Green: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, described three main problems that tend to plague the environmental policies of the past three decades: they often lead to wasted resources and slower economic growth; they are often counterproductive; and they often undermine the legal and political branches of our social environment. After illustrating these problems in the areas of hazardous-waste cleanup, urban planning, and the prosecution of environmental crimes, Close discussed six principles for protecting environmental amenities while minimizing the problems of inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and invasiveness.

Next, environmental entrepreneur Michael Shaw (Proprietor, Liberty Garden) discussed the flaws of the “sustainable development” movement, such as its advocacy of curtailing private-property rights in order to promote environmental bureaucracy. Shaw showed how this top-down, authoritarian campaign contrasts with his own successful private efforts to restore wildlife habitat near Santa Cruz, Calif.

Finally, political scientist Randy Simmons detailed the flaws of the Endangered Species Act, drawing on his two chapters in Re-Thinking Green. The ESA, he explains, pits endangered species against property owners, thereby giving property owners disincentives to protect any endangered species on their property. Simmons then discussed several private conservation funds—inside and outside the United States—that have successfully enlisted the efforts of private-property owners to preserve threatened species and their habitats.

“Bureaucracy vs. the Environment: What Should Be Done?” featuring Carl Close, Michael Shaw, and Randy Simmons (6/28/07) Transcript and Audio

Re-Thinking Green: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close

“A complete guide to environmental policy. This book provides a history of erroneous environmental thinking, a devastating critique of current policies and a menu for improvement.” –Paul H. Rubin, Professor of Economics and Law, Emory University

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3) Like Russia, Latin America Is Moving Toward Authoritarianism

As in Putin’s Russia, authoritarianism in Latin America is alive and well. Fortunately, many Latin American countries have stronger civil society institutions than Russia and therefore may be more resistant to a full-fledged onslaught of statism. On the other hand, many of them are embracing a populist authoritarianism at a rapid pace, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity.

Take the case of Ecuador, the latest to begin moving away from constitutional republicanism.

“Last Sunday, Ecuadorians voted in large numbers to essentially rewrite the constitution,” Vargas Llosa writes in his latest column. Last weekend’s referendum gives a green light to President Rafael Correa’s efforts to establish a constitutional assembly that will give him authoritarian powers. “In this, Correa, who wants to replace democracy with an authoritarian regime, is following the example of his friend Hugo Chavez and of Bolivia’s Evo Morales,” Vargas Llosa continues. “And if Mexico’s and Peru’s current governments do not deliver economic improvement, we could easily see populists taking over the reins of power there too.”

Despite their many differences, both Russia and Latin America lack strong traditions of civil rights and property rights, both of have been essential to maintaining freedom in the liberal western democracies. “Recent developments prove that the populist republic is not a thing of the past in Latin America,” Vargas Llosa continues. “And the populist rhetoric—the combination of democratic appearances and autocratic controls, sustained by the sale of oil and minerals—has much in common with Putin’s Russia.”

“The Populist Republic,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (4/18/07) Spanish Translation

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Liberty For Latin America: How to Undo 500 Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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4) Chertoff Hypes One Risk, but Ignores Another

Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff downplays the role the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has played in motivating the al-Qaeda terrorist group, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“The 9/11 attacks were treacherous acts of terrorism, but Chertoff and the Bush administration, the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and the American media act as if they were the beginning of history,” writes Eland in a new op-ed. “For their own safety and security, Americans cannot continue to ignore that the Islamist venom resulting in 9/11 was rooted in this U.S. interventionist and quasi-imperial foreign policy.”

History suggests that U.S. restraint in the Middle East could have the desired outcome, Eland continues. “If there is any doubt that this strategy would work, the case of Lebanon during the early 1980s should be examined. After the bombing of the Marine barracks and Ronald Reagan’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country, the number of anti–U.S. attacks by the Islamist group Hezbollah plummeted.”

See “Chertoff Uses Totalitarian Comparisons To Defend War on Terror,” by Ivan Eland (4/23/07) Spanish Translation

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

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5) Garvey Essay Contest: May 1st Deadline Approaches

College students and untenured professors—please note that the deadline for the 2007 Olive W. Garvey Fellowship Competition is fast approaching.

Student Division:

First Prize: $2,500
Second Prize: $1,500
Third prize: $1,000

Junior Faculty Division:

First Prize: $10,000
Second Prize: $5,000
Third Prize: $1,500

More information

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